Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Don't Compare Steph Curry and Cam Newton

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 22, 2016

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1. Steph and Cam can't be compared

It was after Carolina's brutal loss to Denver in the Super Bowl, and after Cam Newton's brutal press conference that was a total of literally 80 words, that noted Carolina fan and NBA star Steph Curry came to Newton's defense. 

"Anybody could probably say he could handle the situation better," Curry said in February, per the San Jose Mercury News' Jeff Faraudo, "but having not been in his shoes I can’t really say how I would have responded in that moment."

Well, actually, now we do know. He handled his own brutal and embarrassing loss with class.

That, of course, led some to compare Curry's post-championship presser with Newton's. 

ESPN's Rick Reilly, whom I respect very much, was among those making the comparison:

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Rick Reilly @ReillyRick

Hey, Cam Newton: Here's how to lose with grace and honor ... https://t.co/tRAHUXDNiu

The logic is wrong for a very important reason.

Go back to that Super Bowl, and remember something vital: Newton's irritation was for a palpable and understandable reason.

I was standing right there when it happened. You could hear a voice in the near background, about five feet away, saying something that clearly was a slight on Newton. It was someone very loudly questioning Newton's ability to throw a football accurately. Newton heard it and, after hearing it, walked off.

It was Broncos defensive back Chris Harris Jr., and this is what Harris said: "That was the game plan. Load the box, force [Newton] to throw the ball. Can you throw the football? That was the game plan. Load the box, one-on-one man outside."

I watched as Newton turned his head slightly, hearing what was being said, and that's when he bolted.

Should Newton have bolted? Probably not.

But imagine if during Curry's postgame press conference, he overheard one of the Cavaliers players saying: "That was the game plan. Force Curry to shoot. Can you really shoot the basketball? That was the game plan."

Harris was basically saying that Newton was overrated. What if a Cleveland player said the same? Curry might have ignored it. Or he might not have.

No one handles these situations perfectly. Klay Thompson told reporters the Warriors are still the best team in the world despite losing in historic fashion. Curry's wife tweeted about a rigged NBA after Game 6. 

Rachel Nichols @Rachel__Nichols

Here's what Ayesha Curry posted at the end of the game...then deleted, but only after tens of thousands of retweets: https://t.co/dO83u456iX

I've seen NFL players punch their lockers after regular-season losses, let alone Super Bowls. Coaches have destroyed rooms after preseason losses. 

The problem with the Super Bowl and Newton was the NFL put the two teams in such close proximity. I've covered more than 20 Super Bowls, and the NFL had never put players that close before. There was a reason for that.

The recent shots at Newton, through the lens of Curry, are emblematic of something else. It's how much people—still—have an irrational dislike of Newton. They use any opportunity to take shots at him, even utilizing the postgame press conference of an NBA superstar to do it.

I've said this and will keep saying it. There is no more misunderstood athlete than Newton. He's a grounded, hardworking pro who dabs (or used to). That post-Super Bowl moment doesn't define him. It never will.

No matter how much people keep trying.

2. Broncos players say Mark Sanchez will be starter

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Coach Gary Kubiak has been extremely circumspect about whether Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian will be his starting quarterback for the season opener. The answer is obvious to everyone, including the Broncos players.

Two Denver players told Bleacher Report that on the team, all the players know it's Sanchez. "It's no mystery to us," said one.

Both players, who made sure to point out how much they admire and respect Kubiak, also chuckled at his secrecy over something almost everyone in and around the team knows will happen.

The only way Sanchez doesn't start is if he throws 400 interceptions in the preseason or aliens zap the stadium, Independence Day-style. Sanchez throws a lot of interceptions, but not that many.

3. "Vastly underrated" Gary Kubiak

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

I believe that most in the media have given Kubiak plenty of credit for being a smart and tactically sound coach. But an assistant general manager this week told me the media hasn't given him enough. Here's what he said:

"I went back and looked at some of the film from last season. He did a lot of really smart things that he doesn't get credit for. That offense went through some permutations that I'm not sure people recognize. He did one of the best coaching jobs that I've seen in maybe the past 15 or 20 years."

4. "Tony Romo will be the MVP"

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

One more thing from this assistant general manager. He believes Dallas quarterback Tony Romo will have an outstanding year. I've heard this from people around the NFL before. But I haven't heard anyone state that belief so bluntly:

"I see a vastly improved team. I think this is Romo's year, finally, where we see him make a Super Bowl run. I know his health is a big concern, but this feels like his year to me."

5. Bill Polian in Ring of Honor…awwwkwaaard

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 03: Bill Polian (L) and Jim Irsay chat at the Indianapolis Colts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on October 3, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

The Colts announced this week that their former general manager, Hall of Famer Bill Polian, will enter the team's Ring of Honor. It's obviously the right thing to do. Duh.

But it will also be a reminder of the mistake owner Jim Irsay made when he fired Polian. Polian's replacement, Ryan Grigson, hasn't exactly distinguished himself. Grigson made the decision to not protect Andrew Luck with good offensive linemen (until recently). It was a huge tactical error, one Polian would have never made.

Polian was a tyrant in Indianapolis (and in Buffalo). That is true. He was hostile to the media, which makes his role now in the media more than ironic. He wanted absolute control over the entirety of the organization. He was, at times, a bully, and Irsay wanted the team back on friendlier ground—both on the inside and in how it treated some on the outside.

It was Irsay's right, of course, to make that change. He's the owner. The man who replaced Polian, however, has struggled. And that's a kind way to say it.

6. Could Victor Cruz be a factor again?

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Giants players tell me they believe wide receiver Victor Cruz, who has battled a series of injuries for the past two years, will be a huge factor this coming season. One told me he was stunned at how well Cruz was moving during the team's recent minicamp (albeit very limited).

These players seem convinced Cruz will be a big factor this coming season. If he is, there will be very few examples of anything like it in recent NFL history. Almost no one misses basically two seasons in the NFL (because of injuries) and then produces. It would be one of the great comebacks in sports history.

7. Can the Browns shock the world?

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Can they reach the Super Bowl this year? No. Hell no. Not even close. Double hell no.

Still, there are lessons for the Browns to be drawn from the Cavaliers winning the title. No, the Browns don't have LeBron James, unless they can get him to play tight end, but what changed the Cavaliers was steadiness throughout the organization. They made smarter decisions. Got higher-quality free agents. Everything stabilized and settled.

The Browns are finally starting to do that with a settled front office and the hiring of an excellent head coach. Those are the first steps. The hardest part remains keeping that stability.

It obviously helps when you have an eternal player like James, but teams can still win without eternal players in the NFL. They cannot win without steadiness.

I think the Browns can turn it around and win their own title, and I think it can happen not in 50 years or 25 or 10, but in five or fewer.

Call me a dreamer.

8. David Carr talking about his brother Derek

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Watching an older brother who was a failure in the NFL giving advice to his younger brother, who is an up-and-coming star, is fascinating. Also, the advice is terrific.

I can't find anyone in football who doesn't believe that Derek Carr will take a dramatic step forward this coming season, along with his Raiders team.

9. True inspiration

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09: Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates defeating the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kansas City won 30 to 0. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty I
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Just in case you missed this, it is worth noting again. Eric Berry started in Week 2 last season, just four months after completing chemotherapy. As a result, he was awarded the George Halas Award from the Pro Football Writers of America for overcoming adversity. He was the first Chiefs player to win it.

We talk about courage in sports all the time, and many times that type of talk is vastly overblown. In the case of Berry, it wasn't.

10. True inspiration, part 2

The trailer for the new movie Gleason is out, and it looks, well, pretty damn amazing. 

The film's backers released this description of it:

The hit documentary from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival goes inside the life of Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints defensive back who, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to get his relationships in order, build a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and adapt to his declining physical condition—utilizing medical technologies that offer the means to live as fully as possible.

I'll be seeing it.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @mikefreemanNFL.


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